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May 24th
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Have Your Cake

HotPlate.ShortcakeIt occurred to me that my children may have grown up deprived. I prepared thousands of cooked-from-scratch meals, albeit with some barely edible experiments in the mix. Focaccia, pizza and even a pair of baguettes made their way to the table (mea culpa; not so difficult with a bread machine), but I don’t recall ever making them a proper strawberry shortcake.

True shortcake, which hails from Great Britain, is a sweetened biscuit for which butter is cut into the flour, sugar, salt and quick leavening agent such as baking soda. When cool, it has a scone-like density that absorbs the sweet strawberry juice without falling apart. Tedious is how I would describe using a dinner knife in each hand, working in parallel, to literally “cut in” the fat into the flour when I was little. As we got older, and busier, Bisquick (admittedly, it does contain xanthan gum) made a fine substitute.

Whipping cream is a simple task with a hand mixer, but it’s best to add any sugar at the end. I suggest placing the cream bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice. When the weather is warm, whipping can turn the cream to butter. I have proof.

Seasonal house-made strawberry shortcake has returned to Ristorante Italiano. On a plate drizzled with crimson syrup sat a hand-formed, softball-sized, roughly textured biscuit, dry and lightly sweetened. It was halved and spread with whipped cream. More whipped cream was piled on top and piped on the plate, with all three fancy dollops topped with sugared berries. 


Ristorante Italiano, 555 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-2321. Full bar. Serving lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., limited menu weekdays from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., and dinner nightly from 5 p.m. Visit m.ristoranteitaliano.biz.

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